1927-1930 at a Civil Air Fleet pilots’ school.
At the start of the German-Soviet War, he was the commander of the 212th Heavy Bomber Regiment, then commander of the 81st Long Range Bomber Division, subordinated to the Supreme Command Headquarters. The division led by him bombed, with his personal participation, enemy military facilities in Berlin, Königsberg, Gdańsk, Ploieşti and other cities.
During the Battle of Moscow his "long-range aviation hit powerful blows on artillery positions, tank formations and command posts."
From February 1942 he was the commander of the long-range bomber force, which transformed into the 18th Air Army in December, 1944. The army's units delivered air strikes against the Axis' deep rear, supported ground forces during the East Prussian, Vienna and Berlin operations and fulfilled tasks to help the Partisans of Yugoslavia.
As commander of the Soviet Long Range Aviation ADD, Golovanov was ordered to destroy Helsinki in early 1944, in order to force Finland to accept Soviet dictated terms of peace. Due to deception and skilled use of radar, Finnish anti-aircraft artillery succeeded in saving the city. When Stalin later in 1944 found out that he has been erroneously informed on the bombing results, ADD was dissolved as a punishment. The career of Golovanov was hampered by this failure.